Looks Are Deceiving

Chapter 25, Blog 1

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang

chuckwells2008@gmail.com

 

Eight a.m. struck, and Harry acted as if nothing had changed. But I had. No more granola, I wanted some bacon. But before Harry and I could tussle over breakfast, Jessie and Shannon flew in and crashed the kitchen table.

“Daddy,” Jessie managed between gulps of air. “Guess what.”

“Dad. Look, look,” huffed Shannon, waving The Times in my face.

The newspaper headline stopped my heart.

“Local man finds Fountain of Youth,” it read in big, bold Helvetica type.

“OH NO!”

Harry grabbed the paper, scanned it and started chuckling.

“You cannot quit now, Charlie baby.”

An Associated Press story, datelined Atlanta, told the tale of my five-month-old quest.

“Fifty-eight-year-old Chuck Wells has succeeded where Ponce de León failed,” I read out loud with horror. “Fifty-eight? Holy Jesus!”

Everybody laughed, my kids, Harry. They thought it hilarious I had grown 10 years older before their eyes.

“That’s it. I’m calling the paper. They owe me a correction.”

While Harry whipped up breakfast for Jessie and Shannon, I called The Times office. Next thing I knew I had a 4:30 p.m. appointment with the sports editor. This old man had something to tell him.

Or her, as I discovered. The sports editor was a familiar, pixie blonde: Sheila Anne Beaven. We dated in high school. We split when I went to Purdue for engineering, and Sheila went to Indiana University for journalism. Last thing I heard she was working for the Indianapolis Star.

But here she was.

“C.H.,” she cooed. “How arrrre you?”

“Call me Chuck,” I said. “That C.H. phase ended with high school.”

I offered my hand. She grasped it with both of hers and held it.

“Sure, Chuck, it’s sooo good to see you.”

“I had no clue you were back in Valpo. How long have you been back?”

“Oh, a couple of months. I got tired of picking up the pictures falling off the wall.”

“Off the wall?”

“Oh, you didn’t know. I worked in L.A. for a while. The L.A. Times. It was a nice gig. But the quakes were scaring me. I wanted to get out before L.A. slid into the ocean.”

“You worked in Los Angeles?”

“Yes, the last nine years,” Sheila said. “Maybe I got homesick, too. California’s nice, but I missed Indiana.”

“Well, it’s nice to see you,” I said.

We strolled back to her office. I sat in front of her desk cluttered with stacks of newspapers. The smell of ink permeated the building. A myriad of awards from Associated Press and the California Press Association covered the wall behind her.

“Sooooo,” Sheila started. “Looks like you did find the Fountain of Youth. You do look good, Chuck.”

Copyright © 2012 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang

Freakin’ Fast

Chapter 14, Blog 2

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang

chuckwells2008@gmail.com

 

Off we zoomed. Billy got the better start. Already he was two meters ahead. My feet tiptoed down the track, investigated the feel – and flirted with the sensation.

… don’t look now, but you’re freakin’ racing …

A tidal wave of emotion hit.

… you bastard, you love this …

RACING, YES.

The rush, freedom, juvenile joy …

… hey, you idiot, he’s pulling away …

GOOO, SEABISCUIT!

I lengthened my strides. Pushed them quicker, deeper.

And …

Came up even with Billy down the backstretch. The pace quickened, maybe too quick. Split times? Too smokin’ fast.

… he’s just a kid. What you waiting for? BEAT HIM! GRAB THE LEAD …

I ignored the voice and the temptation. Into the turn, I dropped behind Billy, just missing  his heels. I loped down the front stretch, inches behind.

“DING, DING, DING,” Geri sang as we crossed the line. “One lap to go!”

Billy shifted into high and cruised to a three-stride lead. No decision here. I had to go, too. I hit the pedal. To my surprise, it responded. A couple of sputters, but it responded.

I closed the gap again. Into the last turn, we roared. Again, Billy pulled away.

… there he goes …

It was now or never.

Out of the turn, I whipped into the second lane and ran like a man on fire. I was on fire. The lactic acid kicked in. My legs burned.

… burn, baby, burn …

I tried to embrace it. Every step hotter, hotter.

… DAMN, your legs, they’re melting …

… HOT, HOT, HOT …

… so what, GO…

I did. We were neck and neck. My legs seared. The faster I ran, the hotter they got. I smelled flesh cooking. At the line, Billy stretched. I didn’t.

It was Billy by a nose.

I didn’t collapse in a heap, but I wanted to. No way I would give those children the satisfaction. Bent over, hands on knees, I felt hungover. My head spun like a cheap propeller and my sides threatened to cave in. And then I remembered.

… you lost, you lost to a kid …

I hated to lose. I hated it. I hated it.

“Yeah, so what?” I said through teeth clenched and slowly straightened up.

… why didn’t you lean, you too good to lean, you damned loser …

“Really?”

The unmistakable sound of laughter sucked me back to reality. Geri and Billy were more than giddy, laughing so hard tears were rolling down their cheeks. Freakin’ bastards. Are you kidding? Furious, I pivoted to lash out.

“Guess what, Old Man,” Geri said.

“You disqualified Billy for being too young?”

“No, worse.”

“What?” I yelled.

“You two freaks just broke the school record by almost three seconds.”

Copyright © 2012 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang